Just a few days ago, I received a message from an old high school friend of mine telling me how brave he thought I was for writing about my depression on The Lilac Road and how it encouraged him to open up about his struggles.
It was one of many touching messages from people who have read this blog and shared their story with me. His message lead me to read my old online diary and I simply couldn’t believe how depressed I was back then. It got me thinking about how unbelievably radical my inner transformation has been – from being miserable and suicidal up until the age of 19, to becoming a restored woman so full of passion to help those who are in the same place I was.
However, the journey to where I am now has been a very difficult, uphill battle. For those who are new here, I fought with depression from the age of 15, mainly because of how broken my family life was. I had an abusive, absent father and went through physical, sexual and verbal abuse as well. I went off the rails desperately trying to fill the void in my heart with other, equally broken people, alcohol and drugs. It was a dark period in my life and I struggled to get out of bed everyday, almost even failing high school because of my poor attendance. It was when my first love broke my heart that I became increasingly suicidal and was ever on the brink of jumping.
It was my best friend who pulled me back from the edge. She saved me in all the ways a person can be saved, but she also pointed me back into the arms of God. It was only when I decided to let God in that my miserable way of life started to change, but even the healing process was hard. I felt so safe and comfortable in the darkness that the light was sometimes too hard to bear, and a lot of the time it was me running back to the familiar.
It’s easy to isolate and try to fight through it by yourself, but here’s the thing: you cannot get through depression alone. You need people. You need grace – from God, from people and from yourself. And yes, it’s okay to need. In fact, being needy is a beautiful thing. Here are some of the things that helped me heal from depression:
- I opened up to friends I trusted. Good friends will ask about how you are doing and will encourage you on days when you feel especially hopeless. Invest in a strong support system because it can mean the difference between conquering your depression and being defeated by it.
- I gave myself things to look forward to. When I was 16, I started a fundraiser for abused children in Thailand with a friend and it not only kept me purposeful, it gave me joy. It doesn’t need to be as complicated as starting a fundraiser. It can be as simple as a getaway with friends or listening to a music playlist you created. Always have something in your life to hope in and keep going for.
- I actively sought out encouraging environments. First in Bible college, and then later in group therapy classes. It was in those two places that I experienced the majority of my healing because of how much prayer, words of encouragement and empathy I received. Seek people and places that can foster healing, especially if it takes you outside of a hostile and unsafe environment.
- I was gentle with myself. You wouldn’t yell or abuse a child who was struggling with something; you would be gentle, encouraging and understanding, so why wouldn’t you treat yourself the same way? It’s okay if you can’t get out of bed in the morning. It’s okay if all you want to do is cry. It’s okay if you take a few steps back that day. But just keep going. Just keep breathing. That’s all that matters.
- I let God in. I thought God didn’t like that I was depressed. I thought that he was disappointed in me. How wrong I was. God is not far from your depression – he is in it with you. The moment you open the door and let him in, he will begin the process of restoring and healing all the broken parts inside of you. He just needs your permission first.
This healing process has taken me about five years, and now I am so full – of life, of passion and of love. I have a wonderful, loving group of friends, my family situation has healed so much it’s miraculous, and I am full of excitement for my future. I have dreams I have already achieved like traveling the world and many more I am dedicated to achieving like one day opening a home for The Lilac Road.
I never thought back in my years of depression and suicidal thoughts that I would ever be this happy. But I am. My heart and life are so full. Of course, healing is a lifetime process and I am still on the road to complete restoration. However, I am so much more stronger because of the storms I have weathered and I know the worst is behind me now. I am living and breathing proof that depression does not have to be the story of your life. You can conquer depression. You can heal from depression. And you can be someone full of life and joy one day. That certainly was my story. It is not an easy road and you need to make a dedicated choice to everyday to get better, no matter how many times you fall down. But is it worth every ounce of struggle and pain? Absolutely.
So remember: keep connected to good friends; always have something in your life to look forward to; seek out environments which foster healing; be gentle with yourself; ask God to come in and take over – you will experience a love like never before. And I promise, it will get better. I believe in you.
Do you struggle with depression? What do you do to cope with it? What did you think of my tips? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments down below!